So, I took a bunch of time off to finish my new book, but thank you to everyone who texted and emailed and left Facebook messages wondering if and when I’d be back. I’m back! And here’s what happened while I was gone.
Six months ago, I had a daughter who was in elementary school. Although she was rapidly getting taller and looking less and less like a child, she was still a child. She didn’t have a cell phone, or an Instagram account. She still shopped in the kids department at Nordstrom. I’d pick her up from school and she’d talk to me in the car on the way to wherever we were going – ice skating, basketball practice, play rehearsal. I knew all of her teachers, I knew all of her friends, I knew what she had to do for homework every night. I was still a mom of a grade schooler. Then she graduated, and went away to camp for the summer. And when she came home in August, I had a different child.
I’m not going to tell you that old story about how she turned into an awful, moody teenager overnight. That’s not what happened. She’s still nice to me, she still likes me, she still tells me things. Of course, she has her moments when the hormones invade her like little armies of body snatchers, but they’re just moments. There’s no door slamming or snide comments. I know it can still happen and I’m sure it will, it just hasn’t been like that yet. But still, everything has changed, and frankly, I hate it.
Whereas six months ago I had a grade schooler, now I have a middle schooler. And it’s just…OMG. For one thing, we got her a phone. I hate the phone, mostly because it’s replaced me as the center of her universe. And I know that sounds messed up, and it probably is, but I can’t help it, I miss the days when her world revolved around me, and not around group texts and Instagram posts. And speaking of Instagram, I hate how my daughter has developed this constant, desperate yearning for more likes and more followers and more comments. Middle school girls do this thing where they post a picture and write, if you like my post, I’ll give you a tbh. Which stands for “to be honest.” Which means, you’ll tell someone something that you honestly think about them. Remember slam books? A tbh is like that, except online, for everyone you know – or even kind of know – to see. Tbh: I think it’s pretty sick. And I hate it.
Six months ago, in grade school, my daughter wore a uniform. I loved the uniform. She loved the uniform. It made life so simple and easy and un-angsty, which might be a word I just totally made up, but whatever. Now, it’s all about labels and where you shop and mom, everybody has these jeans, they’re like, the new thing. And just fyi, whenever she invokes everybody, it’s never more than three people. But I hate it. I hate the sky-high insecurity and the desperate need to conform and the panic that ensues when she arrives somewhere and realizes that she’s not wearing exactly the same thing as everyone else. It makes me long for those preschool days, when she would dress herself in head to toe purple with mismatched socks, white, open-toed sandals and a cape. Just because she liked capes.
I hate that I don’t know any of her new friends, or their parents. I hate that half of these new parents have other, bigger kids with other, bigger problems, so they really don’t care if their seventh grader is sending obscene texts or posting group photos of parties that my kid wasn’t invited to, or putting my kid in an Uber car because, actually, they can’t pick them up from the bar mitzvah at eleven o’clock at night like they said they would. And I hate that if I complain about any of it, they’ll just roll their eyes and tell me that putting a few twelve year olds in an Uber car is the least of their problems, try dealing with a fifteen year-old who’s discovered Vicodin.
I hate that all of my daughter’s after school activities now take place at school, because as much as I complained about all of the driving to basketball practice and play rehearsal, I miss having that time in the car with her. Now, I pick her up at five, she scarfs down dinner, and she disappears into the homework void for the rest of the night. I hate that I feel like I never get to see her.
Okay, then. To recap: A lot has changed in six months. I love my daughter, but I hate that she’s growing up. And I hate a lot of other things, too. So, yeah. I guess that really, not that much has changed at all.